A few years ago I decided to read writings by major reformers. I started with Martin Luther’s Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians. Luther dedicated his life to God while out in a thunderstorm. He was afraid for his life. History suggests that storm transferred into Luther’s soul. As the lightning rod of the reformation he channeled and focused theological currents that had been building for 200 years. Luther also spoke with the force of a thunderclap. Below are some favorite quotes from his commentary on Galatians.
“Learn to believe that Christ was given, not for picayune and imaginary transgressions, but for mountainous sins; not for one or two, but for all; not for sins that can be discarded, but for sins that are stubbornly ingrained. [...] Say with confidence: ‘Christ, the Son of God, was given not for the righteous, but for sinners. If I had no sin I should not need Christ. No, Satan, you cannot delude me into thinking I am holy. [...] Because my transgressions are multiplied and my own efforts at self-justification rather a hindrance than a furtherance, therefore Christ the Son of God gave Himself into death for my sins.’ To believe this is to have eternal life.”
“True Christian righteousness is the righteousness of Christ who lives in us. We must look away from our own person. Christ and my conscience must become one, so that I can see nothing else but Christ crucified and raised from the dead for me. If I keep on looking at myself, I am gone” (commentary on Gal. 2:20).
“Whoever seeks righteousness by works denies God and makes himself God. He is an Antichrist because he ascribes to his own works the omnipotent capability of conquering sin, death, devil, hell, and the wrath of God. An Antichrist lays claim to the honor of Christ” (commentary on Gal. 3:10).
“By faith alone can we become righteous, for faith invests us with the sinlessness of Christ. […] Whenever sin and death make you nervous write it down as an illusion of the devil. There is no sin now, no curse, no death, no devil because Christ has done away with them. This fact is sure. There is nothing wrong with the fact. The defect lies in our lack of faith” (commentary on Gal. 3:13).
“It is the universal impression that righteousness is obtained through the deeds of the Law. This impression is instinctive and therefore doubly dangerous. Gross sins and vices may be recognized or else repressed by the threat of punishment. But this sin, this opinion of man’s own righteousness refuses to be classified as sin. It wants to be esteemed as high-class religion. Hence, it constitutes the mighty influence of the devil over the entire world” (commentary on Gal. 3:19).
“The conscience ought not to be on speaking terms with the Law. The conscience ought to know only Christ. To say this is easy, but in times of trial, when the conscience writhes in the presence of God, it is not easy to do. At such times we are to believe in Christ as if there were no Law or sin anywhere, but only Christ” (commentary on Gal. 4:3).
“You may say, ‘The trouble is I don’t feel as if I am righteous.’ You must not feel, but believe. Unless you believe that you are righteous, you do Christ a great wrong, for He has cleansed you by the washing of regeneration, He died for you so that through Him you may obtain righteousness and everlasting life” (commentary on Gal. 5:5).